Man caves, a term commonly attached to places men go to get away and watch football at home, are alive and well in Greene County — with a few twists.
Delving into the depths of four of these “caves” found in Jefferson, the at-home retreats revealed more than just a love for watching football with family and friends, even though ‘tis the season. These rooms and outbuildings also provide places to socialize over board and parlor games, work on favorite pastimes, retreat or simply have friendly conversation over a few beverages and some good eats.
Sharing the secrets of their get-away places are Don and Bonnie Orris who not only have a big-screen TV and comfortable seating for football-watching, but a full-fledged game room; Doug and LeAnn Monaghan who have added an outdoor attraction to their man-garage; David Ohrt and Laurie Connolly with a horse barn converted to a man cave and retreat; and Bob and Lori Smith with the “Hog House,” converted from a tiny house.
Football and other important games
Once Don and Bonnie Orris’ four children in their blended family were out on their own, the couple turned the basement into a large “play” area. The room has the requisite big-screen TV, easy chair with built-in back massager, large couch and ottomans perfect for football watching, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“My family has always been into games,” Don explains as he showed off his tournament-sized shuffleboard table complete with an overhead electric score board. “We played lots of board games of all kinds when I was growing up, and we have kept doing that.”
Visitors will also find a poker table, a pool table, a pinball machine and a choice of more than 50 board and other boxed games, some from Don’s youth. A sampling of games lining the shelves on one wall of a closet includes Sorry, Wits and Wagers, Monopoly, chess, Loopin’ Louie, Scrabble and Trouble.
“Often, when people are here watching Monday Night Football, they are also playing games,” Don says.
He has a strong belief the games have drawn his family closer together and helped them stay connected.
“A lot of the games we have are able to be played by a multi-aged group. The games have provided not only social entertainment, but social learning,” he says. “My dad was 90 years old and could still play shuffleboard with someone who was 10 years old. That helps bring the generations together.”
Once a year, Don and Bonnie auction off a game night for six couples as part of a Rotary Club Fundraiser. One year the package went for $500 and another for $800. The couple feed guests pizza and beverages while Don acts as the game master to conduct play in seven different games. A sample of the games played two years ago included dominoes, pinball, backgammon, Blokus, Loopin’ Louie, shuffleboard and pool. After scores from all the games are added up, the winning couple goes home with a traveling trophy.
“It’s a lot of fun, and the couples have a good time with it, especially Loopin Louie,” Don says.
Bonnie adds, “It’s more about getting together than competition, really.”
Inside and out
LeAnn and Doug Monaghan have taken their love of socializing with friends from the inside of their garage-turned-man-cave to the outside by adding a covered bar, complete with a big-screen television, ceiling fan and patio heater to keep everyone warm for fall football watching.
The garage still holds patio furniture, a television and an old Pepsi dispensing machine. The man cave also used to have a hot tub, then, a year or so ago, the hot tub developed a leak.
“Instead of replacing the hot tub, we decided to create an attached outdoor space that was covered. We had been thinking about it for several years anyway,” Doug says.
With the help of family and friends, the couple had a concrete pad laid and added a roof. LeAnn found a bar plan online, and Doug adapted the plans to what they wanted to build.
“We didn’t want a built-in grill, and we wanted something that would stand up to the weather,” she explains.
The result is an oak bar protected by marine varnish with a top made of indoor/outdoor tile. Recessed rope lighting helps light up the bar. A large stainless steel cooler stands against the back of the garage. A concrete extension was added to the concrete pad for a free-standing grill. Don added lots of outlets around the bar so that things like crock pots and warmers can be plugged in.
Doug is looking forward to the first Monday night football game he’ll host for the football group he hangs with.
“I host the first one this year, on Sept. 9, so we are getting ready for that,” he says.
LeAnn chimes in, “Last weekend we grilled a pizza and watched the Olympics out here.”
Doug says he’s working on what to cook for the first football night.
“Right now I’m looking at steak on a stick, but I’ll need to practice on that one.”
While the patio heater should keep people warm enough, if the weather gets too bad the couple’s guests can still move into the garage. With the covered bar, they figure they can stand a lot of rain and weather before that move will be needed.
Don Ohrt decided when he and wife, Laurie, moved into their home that he wanted a man cave and that the old horse barn would provide a prime location.
“Our house is kind of small and there was only one TV in there,” he says with a laugh. “This was a way for me to have a space to myself.”
An idea that started out as a vision for a more rudimentary space ended up with a wood floor, barn-board siding, a sink and counter, two futons, a large flat-screen television, a ping-pong table, a refrigerator and recessed rope lighting around the top of the walls.
“I belong to a Monday Night Football group, and we take turns going to different people’s homes. When it’s my turn, we get together out here,” he says. “I call this a man cave, but sometimes my wife comes out here to just get away from things. We are currently working on one of the rooms in the house to make it a ‘woman cave.’ ”
Don grins as he fessed up that some of his nieces have used the space to get together. They brought in flowers and watched TLC shows, which, he says, didn’t seem very fitting for a man cave, although he didn’t really mind.
Old sports gear hangs on one wall including a catcher’s mitt, a catcher’s mask and a bat.
“In my opinion, I don’t think you need a lot of new stuff to make a place you like. You can recycle a lot of things, like the barn siding,” he says. “It helps to plan ahead.”
Forget football, this is Hog Heaven year-round
Football is OK, but the man cave — or in this case, family cave — getaway for Bob and Lori Smith is all about motorcycles — Harley Davidson Motorcycles to be more precise.
The officially named “Hog House” was originally converted into a work space from an old small house that existed on property they bought next door to their house. The Smiths needed a place to work on their motorcycles. One thing led to another, and they ended up putting a full kitchen back into the tiny house, along with their two motorcycles, lots of Harley memorabilia, tools and more. The little house soon became a gathering place for like-minded motorcycling friends.
The Hog House has always been a work in progress with friends contributing bits and pieces to the overall look.
“It’s like working on a motorcycle, it’s always $100 from being done,” Bob says.
An old Harley wheel and tire hangs from the ceiling in the kitchen area with kitchen utensils hanging down. The bathroom door is covered with signatures of Hog House visitors. Bob and Laurie point out various photos and signs, a pair of goggles and other bits and pieces their friends have added.
But the ambiance doesn’t stop there. The Smiths have extended a roof from the original building to cover a large concrete pad. Under the roof is more Harley memorabilia, an industrial-sized grill, tables and lots of chairs.
“We have people over here every weekend, year-round,” Bob says. “We work on motorcycles and socialize and just have a good time. It’s just a bunch of friends who like riding and working on the motorcycles, whether they are Harleys or any motorcycle.”
“It isn’t unusual to come home from work and find someone waiting for us,” Lori adds. “I love it. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. It’s a place to come and relax, and we get to enjoy it with other people.”
The couple likes going on trips and rides with other motorcycle enthusiasts, often riding somewhere on Sundays.
“We’re not into sports or fishing or hunting… we are into socializing with our friends and riding,” Bob explains. “It wouldn’t be as fun if people didn’t come over here. And we all kind of take care of each other.”
They have plans for another addition, this time expanding the Hog House to the back to add more room for indoor socializing, and, of course, more room to work on motorcycles.